Choosing a Size and Grading Between Sizes

Hi all! Amy here. We are continuing this week with our Back to Basics series. Last week I showed you how to take your own measurements, and this week I’ll show you how to take those (along with some other data) to choose the right size for whatever pattern you are making. I’ll also be showing you how to grade between sizes if you fall into more than one set of measurements. 

Very few (if any) people are what is called a “straight size”. When we invent sizes (yes! They are made up!) we do so by taking a whole bunch of data from our population and then averaging that out so that it works for as many people as possible. This of course means, that it doesn’t really represent one body, but a rough idea of many, many bodies. I think it is very important to wrap your brain around this, especially if you are someone that struggles with body acceptance. You must know, your body is perfectly proportioned for your body, everything is where it needs to be, it’s the pattern you have to modify. I stress this because, chances are, there are some common fit adjustments that you can learn for your proportions, that will make your garments more comfortable. Maybe you have long arms, sloped shoulders, a curved upper back or more gluteus minimus than gluteus maximus?? We have a fix for that! Let’s dig in. 

At Closet Core, we use four main measurements to determine size. Last week, I showed you the best way to get those numbers consistently. I recommend writing your measurements where they go on this chart and circling the size in each column.  

Sizes 0-20

Our 0-20 size range is based on a B cup bust with an average height of 5′-6″. Please note that B cup does not refer to bra sizing, but rather the difference in inches between high and full bust. A 2″ difference between those measurements is equivalent to a B cup (a difference of 1″= A cup, 2″  = B cup, 3″ = C cup etc.) If the difference between your high bust and full bust is higher than 2″, you may need to make a full bust adjustment for select patterns.

Sizes 14-30

 

Our 14-30 size range is based on a D cup bust and pear-shaped lower body with an average height of 5′-6″. Please note that D cup does not refer to bra sizing, but rather the difference in inches between high and full bust; a 4″ difference between those measurements is equivalent to a D cup (a difference of 1″= A cup, 2″  = B cup, 3″ = C cup etc.). If the difference between your high bust and full bust is greater than 4″, you may need to make a full bust adjustment for select patterns. If the difference is smaller, you may need to make a small bust adjustment.

While there are a few overlapping sizes in the 0-20 and 14-30 size range, please note that body measurements are not the same. If you’ve made our patterns before, you may find you are a different size in the extended range, so it is really important you choose a size based on your actual measurements rather than what you may have chosen in the past.

How to Choose a Range

Since there is some overlap between our two size ranges, you may be wondering which one to choose. The main difference between the two size ranges is that the 14-30 range is drafted for larger busts with a more pear-shaped lower body. If you fall in one of the overlapping sizes, we suggest determining your cup size first by measuring your full bust and high bust and subtracting one from the other. Each inch difference equals one cup size. If you are a D cup or larger, our 14-30 range will ensure the best fit through the bust. If you are an A/B/C cup through the bust and less pear-shaped, the 0-20 range will be the best option.

Ok. But what if I am exactly between two sizes?

This is where we have some decision making to do. If you are making yourself a wedding dress, out of very expensive silk, and it has to fit like a glove, you will of course be making a muslin. We have a whole bunch of blog tutorials on toiling, underlining and other couture methods of getting an impeccable fit. But let’s say, you are making a basic boxy top, out of some relatively inexpensive fabric and you just want to dive in and make the darn thing, you need to choose a size! This is where we need to take the pattern, the fabric and the concept of “ease” into consideration.

Ease, very briefly, is the amount of wiggle room a pattern drafter has built into the garment to make sure you can walk, sit, raise your arms or bend over. For the purposes of this discussion, we will be limiting this to woven fabrics (cotton, linen, etc.) as stretch fabrics are a different animal (the ease is built into the fabric!)

When looking at a pattern for the first time, read the pattern description. Our Fiona Sundress description reads: “Our lovely Fiona is a fitted button-up sundress with shoulder straps, princess seams, a straight cut skirt and fetching topstitched details.” The word fitted indicates there is not much ease built-in so if you were between sizes you would make the larger size with the possibility of taking in the side seams. Remember, it easier to size down than size up! Let’s look at one of our less structured garment descriptions: “Elodie features a softly flowing bodice, with release pleats under the bust and a dolman style sleeve. Choose between a short sleeve or a longer, more formal option that ends at the elbow. The skirt is swishy and voluminous and comes in three lengths, above the knee, midi or maxi, with optional patch pockets.” From this description I can tell the bodice is relaxed and forgiving and I could probably hide a small child under that skirt. If I were between sizes for this I could go with the smaller size and be confident it would still fit. 

This chart gives you a rough guide to the industry standards when it comes to how much ease is built into different silhouettes.

Craftsy w/ Linda Lee

GRADING BETWEEN SIZES

Let’s say you are making some pants. They are semi-fitted and you are a 10 at the waist but a 14 at the full hip, you have to grade! Grading, most simply put, is making a smooth line between two different levels. This could be paving a driveway or drafting a skirt pattern, it’s the same principle. In the case of sewing, you will plan your grading before you even start cutting out fabric. If you are using tissue, rough cut your main pattern pieces involved, leaving lots of extra tissue. If you are using a PDF, select all the sizes involved (10-12-14) when you print your pattern. You also need to figure out what pieces are involved in your grading area. In the case of our Ginger Jeans (let’s say), this would be the front and back leg as well as the pocket pieces. 

Once you have the relevant pieces organized you will use a hip curve or a ruler to make a smooth transition between the two sizes. Here are some examples of grading between sizes with our patterns: 

Fitting tips for the Blanca Flight Suit - Grading between sizes // Closet Core Patterns

This is the Blanca Flight suit and these are the pieces involved to move from a size 16 bust to an 18 waist and 20 hip. 

Grading Between Sizes | Pants Fitting Tips // Jenny Overalls & Trousers Pattern // Closet Core Patterns

In this example, we are grading the Jenny trousers from a 10 waist to a 12 hip. Always double check if this will affect your pocket pieces or any other details that are graded in the area you are adjusting.

OTHER COMMON ADJUSTMENTS

Another way to know if a pattern fits your measurements (before you make it) is to look at the finished garment measurements. This is a chart that shows the most important information for any given garment and is where all those other measurements you took, will come in handy. 

These are the finished garment measurements for our Pietra Pants. 

Let’s say I am making the cropped version and I know I am four inches shorter than the pattern is drafted for. using these points I can compare the chart measurements vs. my measurements and determine where I will need to make my adjustments. If I like the rise of pants but need them to be shorter I can use the lengthen/shorten line on the pattern piece to take the length off there. If I find the crotch too low, I can shorten the rise by grading the pattern to a smaller size at the crotch curve. Whether you are a number-crunching math brain or a trial and error spatial brain, there are a million ways to use your measurements for fitting. The most important thing is to discover what works for you and to make it fun!

When we release a new pattern we almost always include common fit adjustments. These are a series of tweaks that you can use to troubleshoot any weird draglines, bunching or pinching. While they are specific to our patterns, if you are having a fit issue with any pattern that is similar you might find something helpful here:

BOTTOMS

TOPS 

 

Hopefully, after reading all this you are feeling more empowered than confused! Once you try some of these tweaks you will discover that there are most likely a handful of adjustments that take your fit skills to the next level. Have fun and remember, sewing is a journey and there is no such thing as perfect!

 

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Hi! I'm Heather Lou, a pattern designer and sewing educator for the modern maker. At Closet Core Patterns, we transform your imagination into step-by-step implementation that helps you create a wardrobe you love - not one you're limited to buying off the rack.

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